Missouri Executive Order 44
Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. It was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that the Mormons had committed "open and avowed defiance of the laws", and had "made war upon the people of this State," Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description".
Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Mormon Extermination Order". Boggs' missive led directly or indirectly to several Mormon deaths: the militia and other state authorities it as a pretext to expel the Mormons from their lands in the state, and force them to migrate to Illinois. This forced expulsion in difficult, wintry conditions posed a substantial threat to the health and safety of the affected Mormons, and an unknown number died from hardship and exposure. Furthermore, a group of men and boys were killed by Livingston County militia in the Haun's Mill massacre three days after the order was issued.
After the initial attack on Haun's Mill, several of those who had been wounded or had surrendered were shot dead. Members of the militia entered the blacksmith shop and found ten-year-old Sardius Smith, eight-year old Alma Smith, and nine-year-old Charles Merrick hiding under the blacksmith's bellows. William Reynolds put his musket against Sardius's skull and blew off the top of his head, killing him. Reynolds later explained, "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon." Alma and Charles were also shot; Alma survived but Charles did not. Although participants in the massacre boasted of their acts for years, none of the Missouri attackers were ever brought to trial, and the Latter Day Saints' efforts at receiving justice in the Missouri courts failed.
Mormons did not begin to return to Missouri until 25 years later, when they found a more welcoming environment and were able to establish homes there once more. In 1976, citing the unconstitutional nature of Boggs' directive, Missouri Governor Kit Bond formally rescinded it.
Executive Order 44 was issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War, which had been caused by friction between the Mormons and their neighbors, largely due to tensions resulting from the growing economic and electoral power of the Mormon community, and the Mormons' vocal opposition to slavery. The war ended with the expulsion of almost all Mormons from the state of Missouri. The Mormons had been given a county of their own to settle in after their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833, but the increasing influx of new Mormon converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. This provoked the wrath of other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Mormons would remain confined to Caldwell County.
On the fourth of July in 1838, Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon delivered an oration in Far West, the county seat of Caldwell County. While not wishing or intending to start any trouble with his non-Mormon neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Mormons would meet any further attacks on them—such as had occurred in Jackson County during the summer and fall of 1833—with force:
We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever. For from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity. The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.—Remember it then all MEN.
Far from settling tensions, Rigdon's oration had the opposite effect: it terrified and inflamed the residents of surrounding counties. By the Fall of that same year these tensions escalated into open conflict, culminating in the looting and burning of several Mormon farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by Mormon "Danites", and the taking of Mormon hostages by a militia unit commanded by Cpt. Samuel Bogart, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When Mormon militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River to rescue their co-religionists, the resulting battle aroused considerable terror throughout the western part of the state. Lurid rumors of a planned full-scale Mormon invasion of Missouri had run rampant throughout the summer, and these only increased as reports of this "Battle of Crooked River" reached the capital at Jefferson City, with spurious accounts of Mormons allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered. Further dispatches spoke of an impending Mormon attack on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated. It was in this environment of fear and misinformation that Boggs chose to act.
Boggs issued Executive Order #44 to General John Clark, whom he had appointed to head up the state militia forces being assembled to reinstate citizens of Daviess County (north of Caldwell) who had been allegedly driven from their homes by renegade Mormons. Having heard lurid reports of alleged Mormon depredations on the Crooked River, Boggs directed Clark to change his mission to one of direct military operations against the Mormons themselves.
Text of the Order
Boggs' Missouri Executive Order Number 44, read as follows:
Headquarters of the Militia, City of Jefferson, Oct. 27, 1838.
Gen. John B. Clark:
Sir: Since the order of this morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Reese, Esq., of Ray county, and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids [sic], information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace--their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Willock, of Marion county, to raise five hundred men, and to march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with five hundred men to proceed to the same point for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the north. They have been directed to communicate with you by express, you can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead therefore of proceeding as at first directed to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.
I am very respectfully, yr obt st [your obedient servant],
L. W. Boggs, Commander-in-Chief.
Aftermath and rescission
Although the Extermination Order technically became inoperative with an end to the state of war and the surrender of Mormon leaders at Far West on November 1, it continued to dignify the forced removal of the Mormons by unauthorized citizens and renegade militia units. The Mormons in Caldwell County had been forced, as part of their surrender agreement, to sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful, the Mormons were still forcibly ejected from their homes—often at gunpoint—and forced to leave Missouri with only what they could carry. Although Boggs belatedly ordered a militia unit under Colonel Sterling Price (later to achieve fame as a Confederate Civil War general) to northern Missouri to stop ongoing depredations against the Mormons, he refused to repeal Order #44. The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Mormon leaders to rescind the decree, and nearly all Latter Day Saints—more than 10,000 altogether—had been driven from the state by the spring of 1839.
Boggs himself was excoriated in certain portions of the Missouri press, as well as those of neighboring states, for his action in issuing this order. General David Atchison, a prominent non-Mormon legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations against the Mormons, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of Boggs' order, for "he would not live in any state, where such authority was given". Although his proposal and similar ones by others went down to defeat, Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed as a result of the Mormon War (and especially due to his "extermination order"), to the point that by the time the next election came around, even his own party (the Democratic Party) was reluctant to be associated with him. After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.
Boggs' extermination order, long unenforced and forgotten by nearly everyone outside the Latter Day Saint community, was formally rescinded by Governor Christopher S. Bond on June 25, 1976, 137 years after being signed. In late 1975, President Lyman F. Edwards of the Far West stake of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, invited Bond to participate in the stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial. As part of his address at that conference, Bond presented the following Executive Order:
WHEREAS, on October 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Governor Boggs' order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, in this bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation's heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic;
Now, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows:
Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44, dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor W. Boggs.
In witness I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the State of Missouri, in the city of Jefferson, on this 25 day of June, 1976.
(Signed) Christopher S. Bond, Governor.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Mormon War Letters, the battle correspondence leading up to, and including, the Extermination Order - presented by LDS historian Mel Tungate.
- The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders include both the original Executive Order 44 and the rescinding order as PDFs - presented by the Missouri Secretary of State.